By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 5/27/2018
Posted: 4/22/2013
Topics/Keywords: #email #Professor'Puter Page Views: 600
I don my professorial motarboard to answer some common questions I've received.

As a computer expert, I am constantly asked computer-related questions. I don't mind it—on the contrary, I love it! But I do get asked certain questions often enough to suspect that many others have the same questions, and could therefore benefit from my writing the answers down. Thus, Professor 'Puter was born!

Dear Professor 'Puter,

I sent an email with lots of attachments to multiple recipients. I started getting calls from the recipients, telling me they were getting many copies of it. And I received many emails telling me that the email address of one of the recipients didn't exist, but it does! I checked it and I was right.

Please come right over and help.


Unfortunately, my coming over wouldn't help. You've actually brought up several issues, each of which I will address.

Multiple copies of an email going out? I swear to you it's not your email program. Think about it: What programmer would ever put a "feature" in an email program to send multiple copies of an email? However, it could be your email server, such as Cox or Verizon, whoever provides your internet service. It's never intentional, but sometimes they have been known to hiccup and send a batch out more than the once that is intended. It is also possible that your incoming mail server can hiccup. However, that would not have affected all your recipients; so that is not the case here.

The only other way it can happen is if you manage to hit Send more than once on your message, and most email applications are designed to disallow that.

However, your statement that your email contained "Lots of attachments" gets my attention. It is possible that your attachments were so numerous or massive that they couldn't be included in the same "envelope". So the email may have been broken up with the attachments distributed. You'll have to ask your recipients to check and see if the "copies" actually included different attachments.

Regarding the person whose email address wouldn't go: I don't care how many times you check the email address, it isn't "right" if it can't be delivered. When it comes to arguing with a computer, you will always lose. Most likely, you were given the wrong email address to start with. The most minor imaginable spelling or punctuation error makes a difference.

However, did you read the return message? Incorrect email addresses are not the only thing to prevent an email from going through. If the server is down (and this is unlikely), then any email addresses it hosts will be down, too. If the user hasn't checked their inbox for some time, it may be full—most email servers put a limit on how many items they will hold. They also put a limit on how much (in terms of bytes) they will hold; and if your email contained many large attachments—or even just one large attachment—some recipients may simply not have room to receive it, and that will bounce it back to you. Also, if for some reason your email looks like spam to that recipient's email server, it could be rejected on that count.

Finally, I should mention that most email clients won't allow the user to open files with extensions that can contain virus code; you'll have to put them in a ZIP file and send that.

And if you have a lot of related attachments to send to a bunch of people, it makes sense to ZIP them into a single file and send that, anyway.

Dear Professor 'Puter,

I really liked WIndows XP. I liked Office 2003, too. I have hated all the later versions of both. What do you think?

Windows XP

I think if Microsoft cared what I think, they'd have hired me when they had the chance.

Yes, I interviewed with them. For a test, they asked me to write, in Assembler (a primitive and very low-level progranming language), a routine that would perform a Forrier transform on a 1023x1023 matrix. I laughed and said, "Why not ask me to do something useful, like design an operating system that has so few bugs in it, it doesn't require weekly updates to keep it running?" The interview went downhill from there.

Most people, I think, and certainly including me, thought Windows XP and Office 2003 were the Ones That Microsoft Got Right. But they need a constant inflow of cash to be profitable; and once you've bought a version of Windows, or Office, you won't need another…unless Microsoft withdraws support from the old one (which, no matter how good, is still riddled with bugs), more or less forcing you to buy the new one. It's like a subscription purchase disguised as a permanent purchase.

But because both Windows and Office are so tightly integrated, Microsoft can get their way. If you want to examine alternatives, there's Open Office, a free Office 2003 clone; or Linux, a free operating system that runs on the same type of PC as Windows. I know from proponents of both, and both are loved…I've never heard a discouraging word about either.

I encourage you to try them, but I won't be able to help. I'm neither a Linux nor an Open Office expert.